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Building native mobile apps with Javascript

Friday, May 8th, 2015 by Servage

appceleratorMost website owners would benefit from a mobile version of their website, because nowadays many users also use mobile devices. Some users even exclusively use mobile devices like smart phones or tablets. It is also important to consider the use case for your given site, because some content is more likely to be consumed via mobile than via desktop or laptop computer. Native apps are competing with mobile or responsive websites, and they both have advantages and disadvantages.

Responsive websites

You can relatively quickly turn your website into a mobile-friendly version. This can be done either by making a separate version only for phones and tablets, which is determined based on the client type. However, responsive sites are becoming more popular. With responsive design, you actually create just one version of your site, but control the display – and change it significantly – depending on the client’s screen size. The advantage of mobile sites – standalone or responsive – is that you can build them quickly using the web technologies you already know. The disadvantages are that a mobile version of your website does not always provide the performance or user experience you know from native apps.

Native apps

Building native apps is a whole different game in comparison to building a web site. You need to know and be able to build programs using different programming languages, and go through a completely different publishing process via the respective app stores, especially Google for Android and Apple for iOS. Another disadvantage is that a user actually needs to install the app before it can be used. You cannot simply quickly open it up like a one-time visit to a website. On the other hand, the advantages of native apps often outweigh the issues of building an publishing them. Native apps are simply more often nicer and faster to use.

The optimal system

In a perfect world you would have a great website with a good responsive format, to serve all device types well. Furthermore to assist power-users of your product to get maximum experience, you create apps for the most popular platforms like Android, iOS, MacOS and Windows.

Building native mobile apps with Javascript

Creating native apps requires to build them in the respective languages for the different platforms. However, there are some amazing products available to make this even smoother. First of all, there are frameworks like Sencha Touch and jQuery Mobile which provide a mobile-optimized experiene – but they are essentially still just some kind of websites. Even better are apps like PhoneGap or Appcelerator, which provide the capability of building software in a language known to web developers, yet converting them to native apps.

Building apps using Javascript is smart for you as a web developer, because with a limited engagement in learning new technology, you can take your existing Javascript knowledge and turn your website into a real native app. Furthermore PhoneGap and Appcelerator lets you convert the app (from a single code-base) into native versions for multiple operating systems. In other words, you can use Javascript to build one single app, which can be almost as good as real native on both Android and iOS. Most standard applications don’t suffer from this process, where more performance critical apps may need a real native approach. However, since your starting point is likely a website or webapp, this should not be a problem.


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Categories: Business, Software & Webapps

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